Editorial: Stick to talkback, Mr Tamihere

Last updated 05:00 05/12/2012

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OPINION: If Labour Party leader David Shearer is hatching a cunning plan to re-enlist former MP John Tamihere in the party's parliamentary ranks to court the blue-collar vote, he should drop it.

Mr Tamihere's on-air tirade against a female reporter who dared to ask him if he was fattist, a misogynist or a homophobe, shows he is unsuited to again hold public office.

Coming just days after he was readmitted to the party, the tirade also shows he learnt nothing from the 2005 brouhaha that effectively ended his six-year parliamentary career.

Then, in an interview he thought was off-the-record, he variously described his Labour colleagues as "smarmy", "queers" and tossers, said the prime minister, Helen Clark, was emotionally fragile, labelled her chief of staff "butch", referred to women as "front-bums" and said he was "sick and tired of hearing how many Jews got gassed".

Given his track record, Mr Tamihere, now a talkback host, might have anticipated questions about his attitude towards women and minority groups, particularly as he celebrated his readmission to the Labour Party by calling Social Development Minister Paula Bennett "that bloody fat girl".

The questions did not need to prove an impassable obstacle. In fact they provided him with an opportunity to show he had matured since losing his Tamaki Makaurau seat in 2005 and to draw a line between his attitude towards individuals and his attitude towards issues.

That is what he did when asked on camera for his views on homosexuality. "I don't have a problem with gay people," he said. "I have a problem with gay marriage."

But back in his Radio Live studio, another side to his personality emerged. Tova O'Brien, the TV3 reporter who asked the questions, was told to "go jump in the lake" and called "stupid" and a "pimply little girl".

Mr Tamihere complains that politics is being "dumbed down". He has a point, but in the past 48 hours no one has done more to lower political discourse to the level of the school playground than himself.

He also claims to speak for an under-represented constituency of heterosexual blokes who like to speak their minds.

Fair enough, but those who speak their minds must also be prepared to hear others speak theirs. The evidence of the past couple of days suggests Mr Tamihere can dish it out but he can't take it.

Nevertheless, the affair has been revealing. John Tamihere 2012 is remarkably similar to the John Tamihere 2005 who railed against the "front-bums" and "queers" ahead of him in Labour's pecking order.

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His views make him an ideal host for talkback radio where opinion counts for everything and the disconnect button means he never has to explain himself.

However, they make him unsuited for Parliament where MPs must represent all their constituents and opinion must be supported by argument.

Childish ad hominem attacks are no substitute for reason.

- The Dominion Post

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